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Imams’ families want better meals, legal expert

By Darcel Choy Saturday, April 5 2014

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Women speak out: Muslim women carrying placards take part in a second day of protest for the release of eight men detained in Caracas outside the Vene...
Women speak out: Muslim women carrying placards take part in a second day of protest for the release of eight men detained in Caracas outside the Vene...

The families of three imams currently detained in a Caracas jail believe the current demonstrations outside the Venezuelan embassy in Port-of-Spain will hinder negotiations taking place between this country and Venezuela.

They also appealed for better legal representation and halal meals for the detainees.

For the last two days, several Muslims have gathered outside the embassy to demand the release of eight Trinidadian men. Those currently detained in a Caracas jail are Dominic “Jamal” Pitilal, Joseph Battersby, Asim Luqman, Wade Charles, and Leslic Doisley and Imams Salam Abdul, Hamza Mohammad and Sheikh Hamid.

The men were among 19 Trinidadians, including women and children, held at a hotel in Caracas for about two weeks after initially being accused of terrorism and later of plotting to overthrow the Venezuelan government. (Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran in Parliament yesterday said 23 persons were in Venezuela.) President of the Islamic Missionaries Guild Imtiaz Mohammed yesterday said he supported the imams’ families decision not to participate in any demonstrations.

“We are not saying the demonstration is totally wrong, I could understand people wanting to do something but at the same time the families think that demonstrating at this time may hinder or jeopardise the negotiation that is going on,” he said.

Mohammed spoke to Newsday yesterday after he and the families met with Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran, Public Utilities Minister Nizam Baksh and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Rudy Indarsingh at the Maurice J Hamilton Room of Tower D of the International Financial Centre, Port-of-Spain.

He said Dookeran told them that within ten to 15 days, the appeal for bail would be heard by a tribunal. Mohammed said they requested of Government to ask for the tribunal hearing to be as early as possible as they want the matter to be over with to bring relief to the affected families. They also made a request for proper legal representation.

“What we have been informed of is that the legal representation at least for the three imams are not the best. We have asked our Government to select a professional legal person or persons in order to represent them..they said they will look into it and see if they will be able to at least provide that,” he said.

The families have also asked that the meals provided be halal (permitted under Islamic dietary guidelines) and the medical needs of two of the imams be met as one is diabetic and one has a heart condition.

Earlier, more than 40 Muslim men and women gathered outside the Venezuelan embassy holding placards and chanting, “let our brothers go”. They called on more Muslims to join their demonstration.

Mansur Ali, speaking to reporters yesterday, said there were more than 100,000 Muslims in the country and they were not coming out. He said they were not blaming President Anthony Carmona or Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for this situation. He said in Islam, Muslims will make doa (supplication) to the creator and once they do, their brothers will come out. Meanwhile, head of Trinidad Muslim League, Dr Nasser Mustapha said he did not see the demonstration having any effect on the situation in Venezuela.

“I support justice (but) I don’t see it (protest) having any kind of effect on what transpires over there,” he said.

Head of the Muslim Social and Cultural Foundation, Inshan Ishmael, said if the men were guilty, they should face the full brunt of the law, but assured they were not guilty.

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